Thursday, 22 August 2013

Eastern Smelting Company (ESCOY)

From the book, The Chinese in Penang. A Pictorial History by Tan Kim Hong, page 103 (Areca Books, 2007). 

The pioneer Chinese tin smelter of Penang was Lee Chin Ho (Li Zhenhe 1863-1939). He was the son of Lee Pean Peh (Li Bianping). Lee Chin Ho was a Hokkien from Changjiang She, Shandu in Haicheng District in China. He founded the Seng Kee Tin Smelting Works in 1898 at 73 Dato Kramat Road in Penang. In 1907, it became the Eastern Smelting Company (ESCOY). Many tin miners of the FMS (Federated Malay States) sat on its Board of Directors (BoD).

Lee Chin Ho contributed significantly to his community. He was a member of the Penang/Georgetown Municipal Board, member of the Chinese Advisory Board, trustee of the Rubber Trading Association, trustee of the Chinese Town Hall, trustee of the Chung Hwa Confucian School, and trustee of the Chinese Recreation Club. He was the Chairman of Penang's Lee Kongsi (Lishi Zongci), President of the Penang Buddhist Association and Vice-President of the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

Lee Chin Ho passed away at age 76, 2 years before WWII broke out in Malaya. The reason for his demise is unknown but it is possible that he died of old age.

Page 103 shows 3 photographs of the old smelting furnaces, the main engines used for smelting tin into ingots (tin ingots), and a full view of the smelting works at 73 Dato Kramat Road in Penang - which had one tall brick chimney amidst low lying village buildings, all sited in a valley.

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From the book, Penang Trams, Trolley Buses & Railways. Municipal Transport History 1880s-1963 by Ric Francis & Colin Ganley, pages 91-95 (Areca Books, 2006).

Page 91 shows a photograph of the Eastern Smelting Company (ESCOY) railway, with the rail cars (wagons) being pulled by a Bo type locomotive No. 2 which had 2 vertical poles in front. The train was travelling along Weld Quay. Photo courtesy of ESCOY.

Page 92 shows a photograph of an ESCOY train passing in front of the buildings at Weld Quay. Electric lamp posts can be seen near the buildings - this photo would be after 1904. Photo courtesy of Malcolm Wade.

The ESCOY (Eastern Smelting Company) was established in 1898 at (73) Dato Kramat Road in Penang. It was Penang's, Malaya's and Malaysia's longest-running and largest tin smelting works. 

The electric trains were initially part of the George Town Municipal Tramways but were later operated by the George Town Municipal Transport Department. The locomotives initially had single vertical poles and later double vertical poles which supplied electricity from the overhead electrical lines. The first two electric locomotives were obtained in 1920 - they were purchased from an American company (there is no mention of the company's name but it could be the same supplier of trams used in downtown San Francisco).

The tramway with single pole was closed in 1936 (after existing for 16 years), and was replaced by the trolleybus system with dual poles for overhead electricity supply.

Page 93 shows 3 photographs and an 1893 map (modified in early 1900s). The ESCOY deployed the Penang Municipality's electricity to bring tin ore in wagons from the jetty to its smelting works in Dato Kramat Road. 

The first photo shows the E.S.C. No. 15 train returning with purified shiny tin ingots to the harbour. The Penang Harbour Board's diesel locomotives then pulled the wagons to Swettenham Pier for the tin ingots to be loaded onto ships for export to Britain. A 2-funnel ship awaits by the pier - it probably has the name Malaya Singapore (?). Photo courtesy of Malcolm Wade.

The second photo shows 4 tramlines converging and criss-crossing near the clock tower (probably after 1912). A warehouse was nearby and a boat was waiting by the harbourside. There were steps leading up to a white platform near the clock tower. The railway or tramlines probably ended just before the clock tower. This view could be down King Edward's Place viewed from a ship or watch tower.

The third photo shows 2 trains (E.S.C 14 and unknown) being pulled by 2 locomotives in tandem at Weld Quay, some distance from Swettenham Pier. An RSJ trolleybus No. 33 can be seen passing between the trains and two parked Model-T Fords.

Page 94 shows an enlarged photo inside one of the ESCOY storage sheds at the jetty. The shiny tin ingots were being loaded onto the wagon E.S.C. No. 12 and would be taken down to the godowns at the jetty. Each labourer carried a tin ingot on his bare right shoulder. The men were dressed in long shorts and without shirts and shoes (barefoot). A cloth is tied around the wait as belts and for added strength. Some had belts. The 2 supervisors (mandor) wore white shirts and long pants.

The Municipal Tramways owned the electric railway system and locomotives. The ESCOY owned 25 wagons which were attached to the locomotives. The trains ran a stretch of 1.7 miles from the jetty to the ESCOY in Dato Kramat Road. ESCOY had 150 yards of railway in its compound. Diesel locomotives operate at Swettenham Pier.

Each locomotive could pull 25 tons of load. There were 5 wagons attached to each locomotive. This means that each wagon carried 5 tons of load (tin ingot or tin ore). The speed limit was 5 mph, for safety and slow enough so that the rickshaws could follow the trains.

The locomotives gave way to the trolleybus. When the locomotive travelled on the trolleybus route, the vertical pole on the trolleybus is pulled down to allow the bus to pass.

Page 95 shows 2 photos at 2 different locations.

The first photo shows 2 men near 2 locomotives (No.1 and No. 2) and 2 ESCOY wagons in tow, with a shed behind the train at the ESCOY compound in Dato Kramat Road. Both locomotives had 2 poles to link to the overhead powerline. One man was dressed in singlet and kain pelikat but was barefoot. The other man who stood nearby was in uniform - they were probably discussing. A Morris Minor (number plate P 5874) is parked near the shed - it probably belonged to the boss of ESCOY at the time. The man in uniform was probably waiting for the locomotive driver; he maybe the wagon guard who usually sits on the load in the first wagon after the locomotive. He probably is the one who is in-charge of connecting the wagons either to the electric locomotives at ESCOY and at the diesel locomotives at the harbour. Photo courtesy of ESCOY.

The second photo shows locomotive No. 3 pulling 4 wagons to the jetty. It showed 5 people doing various activities. A man in shorts walked along the 5-foot pathway. A locomotive driver in uniform stands in engine No. 3. A man in short khaki uniform, with scarf and hat sit atop the load in the first wagon. A man wearing a hat and withhis back to the camera was working on a nearby lorry(?). A Caucasian man in shirt and short and without a hat, crosses near the end of the last wagon pulled by No. 3. A trolleybus is some distance behind the train. There are many different types of buildings. The biggest building is of brick and with ceramic roof tiles. There is a big attap building with four smaller attap buildings by the roadside. There were many big trees behind the attap buildings and near the big brick building. The photo was probably taken in the late afternoon since the photo was very bright but the shadows were long. Photo courtesy of ESCOY.

The railway in Penang was continued to be used by the Japanese during WWII (1941-1945). However, the Japanese used soft soap to lubricate the axle. What an ingenious way to be do things!

For whatever the reasons maybe, sadly, the railway was closed down in December 1956. (The trolleybuses became a new mode of transport.)

On 1 January 1957, the motor transport department took charge of the railway track which was still in good condition. 

According to Tok Chu, the ESCOY was replaced by flats.

The ugly looking yellow Scamell scarab is displayed at Penang Museum but there is no further information about its use in the early smelting works in Penang, except that it pulled wagons of iron ore from the jetty to the smelting works.

Scamell scarab at Penang Museum - this triple-wheeler hauled tin ore from the Weld Quay jetty to the smelting plant at 73 Dato Keramat Road. Tin ingots were returned to the jetty. Ships exported tin to Britain.